I think picture books can bring a lot of good feeling–for children, and also for adults. I struggle with a lot of depression (a result of childhood abuse), and one of the things I turn to when I’m depressed that consistently help are feel-good picture books. I think good picture books can be tools to help with emotions, even trauma, in both children and adults. But because I’m a writer, and I also do art (just for myself), I have to really love both the writing and the illustrations, as well as the message or theme in the books, to love the books.
These two books are two of my new favorites that delight me; I hope you or the children in your life will love them as much as I do.
Good News, Bad News
Written and Illustrated by: Jeff Mack
Published by: Chronicle Books
Published: July 2012
Age range: 1-6 years (and up)
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: I bought the book myself.
Good News, Bad News delivers a powerful story with not much text and great illustrations, but the text that there is tells a lot. The text is simple: “Good news” from one character’s perspective, and “Bad news” from the other. It’s a story of an optimist rabbit and a pessimist rat. The optimist rabbit keeps seeing the good in everything that happens or every way a problem is solved–when it rains, having an umbrella handy, when the rat gets swept away in the storm with the umbrella, realizing that they’re now under shelter under a tree. And the rat keeps seeing the negative in everything–rain spoiling a picnic, the wind sweeping her or him away. Over and over, no matter what calamities befall the two, the rabbit keeps seeing the good things, and the rat the bad–until finally the rat freaks out and yells “Bad news!” over and over. When that happens, suddenly the rabbit is overcome with despair and agrees with the rat. The rat is so dismayed by his or her good friend losing hope, that the rat suddenly finds hope her/himself, and shows it to the rabbit, who regains her/his sense of hope and happiness. This is a funny and heartwarming story, sure to bring laughter and good feeling.
The illustrations are vivid drawings with a cartoon-like feel (in a good way), and are highly expressive; you always know by looking at the characters what they’re feeling. The illustrations also move from including background and a full-color page, to closeups of the characters with only a white background, and this helps keep visual interest. The mishaps are very visual–pink icing splatting all over the rat, lightning striking the characters and blackening them. There’s no mistaking what happens to the characters, or the humor as well as the mood, and the light use of text underscores the emotional tone of the events. The illustrations perfectly match the text.
Good News, Bad News is an entertaining, enjoyable story, and it’s also a deep story–one that may help change your perspective and help you see that for some things in life, how you experience them depends on how you see them–as positive or negative experiences. Written and illustrated in a lighthearted, funny, sweet way, without any preaching, this book is a real treat. It’s one of my new top favorites. Highly recommended!
Snippet the Early Riser
Written and illustrated by: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Published by: Knopf Books/Random House
Published: March 12, 2013
Age range: 3-7 years and up
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Source: Book donated by publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Sometimes there’s something so touching about certain illustrations that they just curl up inside my heart like a hug, and feel just right. That’s the way it was as soon as I started browsing the pages of Snippet the Early Riser. I was hoping that the text and story would live up to the illustrations–it’s so disappointing when they don’t–and I wasn’t disappointed. The story is just as sweet and wonderful as the illustrations.
Snippet loves to do all the things that other snails do–draw on the sidewalk, make leaf sculptures (by eating pieces of the leaves), getting piggy back rides–but he doesn’t sleep in like the rest of the snails. Instead, he’s an early riser. He tries and tries to get his family awake to play with him, but by the time his family finally gets up, he’s too tired to play for very long. And then once he falls asleep, the reverse happens. But he still has other friends to play with. This is a funny, sweet book that lets readers know it’s okay to be who you are, to sleep in or get up early.
The illustrations are enchanting and heartwarming; they made me feel good to look at. Snippet and each of the snails in his family all have different designs on their shells–Snippet has red and white polka dot patches on a turquoise spotted shell, his sister has white stars on a red shell, his mother has white flowers on a purple shell, and his father has blue and turquoise plaid. When Snippet and his sister draw designs on the sidewalk (with the slime trail from their bodies) they are beautiful–Snippets graceful curls, his sister hearts. And when they make leaf sculptures by eating parts of the leaves, Snippet’s is a big star, while his sister’s are hearts. The illustrations and colors used are soothing and comforting.
Some of the story text is told through speech bubbles or sound effects (munch munch) adding to the fun of the illustrations, while the bulk of the story is typefaced text. The story text feels just right; not too long and not too short, and the reversal at the end of the story (his family trying to wake him up, instead of him trying to wake him up–until it starts all over again) brings a fun note.
In some ways Snippet is different from his family, but he’s still obviously loved and secure and has many friends. I think we can all relate to being a little different than others in some way, and this is a sweet, non-preachy book about that. Highly recommended!
I loved both these books so much that I will now look for any book by Jeff Mack and Bethanie Deeney Murguia, and have them on my list to give children in my life, as well as some other adults who love picture books. If you love picture books the way I do, I highly suggest you check these out!